A pleasure for the sadistic, a pain for the indecisive
So, on top of my fears of dancing mannequins, exploding toasters and people cutting in front of me in queues, Dishonored comes along to install another phobia in my brain; rats. Flesh eating, bowel nibbling, bone munching rats. In a bid to get over the more common phobias life has to offer like heights and…sewage, Dishonored forces you to confront them to get the best out of your playthroughs…and it’s well worth doing so. Corvo Attano is a man of virtue and honour, and a famed bodyguard whose duty protecting Dunwall’s Empress Jessamine speaks volumes in respect. When she’s assassinated right in front of him, however, he’s framed for the murder almost immediately. Months of wrongful imprisonment have boiled grudges in his head, but Corvo’s framing goes deeper than he could ever imagined. Given the chance of redemption in the guise of a new masked identity and gifted with phenomenal supernatural powers under a rebellious movement, Corvo is given the chance to uncover why he was wrongfully accused…or simply get revenge on those who sullied his name. Cleaning up the now dilapidated city…is optional. Stumbling into Dishonored like a rabid drunk looking for a fight often ends badly. In fact…it only ends badly. In a world bathed in darkness and death, some gentlemanly decorum is needed on your behalf to survive. Being clocked by guards and Dunwall’s scumbags usually gets you skewered swiftly, and in order to make it through this hell-hole alive, players have to take full advantage of everything the city has to offer. That doesn’t necessarily mean you can’t quench your thirst for blood. In fact, Dishonored gives you enough tools to do so in variously entertaining ways. If you’re skilled in riposting fiends with counter attacks, the games’ main swordplay system will be right up your street, with accurate blocks and well timed sword slashes taking priority over daft button bashing. It’s still the basest skill to stroll in with, but Corvo also has a large array of supernatural powers to take advantage of. Each environment filled with enemies also feels filled to the brim with deadly options should you utilise your skills well. You could slow down time, stick a stack of spiked grenades or ‘Spring Razors’ on enemies and resume to unleash a network of fatalities. You could possess a bunch of rats to lead a revolution against human menaces…with a spiked grenade attached on its back. I liked ‘Spring Razors’, but if you have an affinity with a certain tool of death, Dishonored will certainly encourage you to play around with it.
A sprawling, dynamic and magnificent experience
Dishonored plays well if you do decide to run in crossbows blazing, as long as you know what you’re doing. However, it certainly does encourage a more stealthy approach to conflict. Rather than relying on a conventional moral choice system, the fate of Dunwall rests on how cool you remain under pressure. Senselessly killing and causing collateral damage descends the city into darkness as the game progresses, with areas getting grottier, allies becoming more hostile and more rats infecting the walkways. You can always ignore these consequences if you’re not a subtle player, but the rewards offered for minimal conflict show later on, and the personal pride in taking advantage of an area’s weakpoints far outweigh that gained by any amount of Gamerscore you rack up. No matter what way you decide to tackle a mission, the sheer stack of multiple options available to you are enormous. This is open-ended gameplay at its finest, the city getting larger and larger as your actions make impact, and its winding roads becoming ever more complex. The ulterior motive remains the same, attempt to complete missions causing the least amount of trouble, but you can go about that in several ways. Several routes to take, several methods of dispatching foes result in several outcomes, and the more time you invest in strategizing, the more satisfaction you reap from the results. The city of Dunwall is a twisted reflection of Victorian London, and even if it descends into madness, it’s still a Steampunk wonderland throughout. Its got this magnificent vibe that feels both part Fable in character design, part Bioshock in sheer grandeur, all be it all with a dark twist. The city is designed beautifully, be you looking on at it with an artistic glean or a technical eye. Each labyrinth of tunnels, factories and sewers are coated in the dark (or slightly less dark) charms. There seem to be a few texture issues here and there with some environments not quite catching up with the pace you’re running at, taking a while to load certain details, but it doesn’t damage the sheer scale of visual delights on offer. It you’re looking for a streamlined experience, the copious amounts of objective sorting obsessive compulsive players will have to do and the sheer volume of ways to kill may put you off. There’s a lot to get out of Dishonored, but you do have to put the time and the effort to get the most out of it. Finding those dastardly combinations and those sneaky way-arounds require you to not just think outside the box, but chuck it away completely. I, however, loved Dishonored’s structure, and anyone wishing to break away from linear fumbles will fall in love with it just as quickly as I did. Once it had derailed from its slow burning opening, it evolved quickly into a sprawling, dynamic and magnificent experience. A gory and tactical tour de force, it’ll have you pondering as much as it will have you killing. Use your wits, and it will lavish you with praise until the credits roll, and then cheekily stand on your shelf awaiting for you to do it all again. And with multiple paths, experimental powers and a ton of various ways to complete missions, you will do it again.
The Bad: Some mild graphic texture issues